It’s not enough anymore for students to simply get good grades in math and science. In order for them to become society’s next great innovators, they have to learn to solve problems in real-world contexts using lessons gleaned from those disciplines.
Helping students in Chesterfield County Public Schools perform more competitively in important academic areas is the rationale behind its STEAM curriculum, which represents Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
According to Emily Loving, instructional specialist for science K-12, the STEAM curriculum is an integrated approach to the instruction of two or more of these disciplines at once.
“We have a variety of STEAM opportunities for students in Chesterfield County Public Schools,” Loving said. “Our goal is to provide students with both classroom and extracurricular activities that integrate STEAM content and concepts into relevant and engaging experiences.
“These experiences are designed to develop 21st-century skills that will transfer to solving meaningful problems. Students learn to ask questions, analyze information, design solutions, test results, evaluate findings, take risks and make recommendations for future designs and research.
“These skills help students focus better in areas of math, science, technology, engineering and arts because learning is active, explorative, engaging and relevant,” Loving added.
It would be fair to say that deep analysis and problem-solving are skills that have historically been more synonymous with college-level learning than with students in K-12.
But one of the STEAM curriculum’s objectives is to help prepare students to enter and succeed at the college level after they graduate from Chesterfield County Public Schools.
“Making connections to disciplines that are typically taught in isolation helps students apply knowledge and skills in creative ways that foster higher-level thinking and skills,” Loving added. “In fact, at this year’s STEAM Expo, we are introducing a Career Connection component for secondary students to help them make connections to community partners in STEAM areas.”
The STEAM Expo will get underway at 8 a.m. March 21 at the Chesterfield Technical Center. During the event, middle and high school students will showcase creative projects and show off their abilities to solve problems.
“The goal of the STEAM Expo is to provide Chesterfield County Public School secondary students with opportunities to both showcase and practice STEAM knowledge, concepts and skills in a fun and challenging way,” Loving said. “We also have a variety of events taking place to help students see possibilities available in the community and within our own district.”
High school and middle school student projects will be judged on March 20. They then will be exhibited throughout the next day.
Students also will work in teams to complete on-site problem-solving challenges that are inspired by two or more of the STEAM disciplines from 8 to 10 a.m. March 21.
While high school teams will compete in art engineering and STEAM challenges, middle school teams will be pitted against one another in the areas of math engineering, science engineering and music engineering.
Students will compete in a Minute to Win It challenge from 8 to 8:55 a.m. According to the schools, events in this category include quick challenges like stacking five empty soda cans on a paper plate floating in water or keeping both a feather and a balloon in the air using one’s breath.
Tours of the Chesterfield Technical Center also will be available to attendees.
Loving said she hopes the STEAM Expo will show the general public that Chesterfield County Public Schools students are working hard each day to cultivate their STEAM skills.
“I hope students, parents and community members leave inspired to make learning engaging and relevant,” she said. “I hope the students make a connection with one of the many components of STEAM and continue to pursue that interest to help our community and society in the future.”
The Chesterfield Technical Center is located at 13900 Hull Street Road in Midlothian on the campus of the former Clover Hill High School.
Admission to the event is free.